I realize that every person on this planet has been affected by COVID-19, even the hermits. The disruption it has caused, to routines and life plans, is universal. But I can only tell you about me. What has this pandemic done to me? Time hasn’t stopped, and the calendar on the wall tells me that I am 9 months and 15 days away from my self-imposed deadline to retirement. So where do I stand at this moment? On some very uncertain ground, that’s where.
I’m not a list maker like my wife is. My lists are kept in my head, I’m a mental box-ticker. I do it this way mostly because to me life is fluid, and even though my mental list says ‘cut the grass on Saturday’, sometimes it rains. Plans change, and I like to think it causes me much less stress if I don’t have a paper-trail, constantly reminding me of what I haven’t done. If I kept a written retirement plan, it would give me heart palpitations every time I look at it. The calendar is almost too much!
My retirement plan is forever changing in my head. Yesterday’s plan, does not always mirror today’s plan. The ‘Corona-virus with a slice of Lime disease’, that Honey, Rock, Stream, Ginger, The Earl and I had joked about drinking on the beach in the Dominican Republic in February, has turned out to be no joke. Six months later, and none of us knows when the next time we will see that beach again will be. The plan to be retired there in less than 12 months, appears to be in permanent jeopardy.
So, what now? My immediate response is, “Damned if I know.” I do know that I have to plan something. Time did not stand still, even though the world tried to. As I have watched with mouth agape, my plan virtually dissolved.
Fifteen years ago, the plan had been to simply find a place where I could escape winter. I am not wealthy; I have no hidden nest-egg of riches; I spend what I earn, and try to live a life that makes me happy. Since the retirement plan also included Honey, and the fact that her being happy makes my life happy, it was agreed that having a place to go in winter was a ‘must’, in my retirement plan. (I didn’t want you to think I was the only one agreeing to this plan.) So, as we traveled to different places in the Caribbean, at some point, we would talk about the pros and cons of living there. Morning conversations were of a realistic nature, living on a fixed retirement income blah, blah, blah, while evening conversations after a day of drinking, were ‘If we won the lottery’ talks. The latter was the most fun, but the former was the most likely. Reality was that, I would need to work until I died, just so we could vacation one month of the year. Our hole was too deep.
Fast-forward a decade and much of the hole had been filled, but not without some pain and suffering. I still held on to the core of my plan and that being to able to escape winter every year, had to happen. My economics said no, but my heart said yes. I had found a place I loved, and for the most part had stopped looking elsewhere. My retirement plan began to focus on the Playa Magante neighbourhood, and what I might be able to afford to do. I know… my plan lacked all detail, but at least it was a starting point. At this point, I didn’t have a timeline as to when I would retire, I was aiming at 60 but that wasn’t firm then. I had been searching for property that I couldn’t afford for more than a year, as well as examining the costs associated with living in the Dominican Republic on a fixed income. The path to a retirement of sitting on the sand on a tropical island, seemed to hit a serious pothole seven years ago (6.6 if you want to split hairs), when my ‘connection’ to the area died in an accident. I was still looking but with a little less enthusiasm. If it had not been for the friends I had made there over the years, I may never have returned there and I probably would have set my sights on a different place entirely.
Then life happened. All sorts of craziness began happening at Playa Magante, and the business formerly known as Los Gringos. It had been captured by a pirate, or at least a guy that thought he was a pirate. The place was being hijacked and it was tough to see happen. Theme park decorations at obliterated the natural beauty of the beach. Honey and I weren’t planning on travelling to the Dominican Republic that February, but because we had received an invitation from Ginger and The Earl to be their guests, and Rock and Stream would also be in the DR at that time, it seemed like the thing to do. Landing in the middle of a situation, that was a bigger mess than I had imagined, had not been expected but you play the hand you’re dealt. The ‘Seige’ began 48 hours after Honey and I arrived.
The four of us, Rock and Stream had not arrived on the island yet, took up camp on the deck of Sea Grape, and we spent the days between lawyer visits, discussing the future of the beach. My feelings were well known and have been chronicled here, the business had been mis-managed in my opinion and needed to take a different direction if it were to succeed.
At one point, during an afternoon of ‘muy cervasa’, The Earl said something, that changed everything. “Why don’t you come and do it,” he had said. That line without context can be misinterpreted, but it is what gave my retirement plan detail and structure. That one simple comment, said as much in jest as in seriousness, while we debated the future of The Playa, made me step down a certain path. The one that I find myself on today.
That path, which had already been winding over the last few years, has hit a major roadblock with the arrival of this killer-virus. My situation, like everyone else’s, has changed drastically. Travel can be treacherous at the best of times, but even if I could get a flight to the Dominican Republic, do I really want to? Do I want to trust my health to a foreign country that will charge me? Or do I stay in a country where there is ‘universal’ healthcare and if I get sick, there is a good chance it will be handled without a bill? You can understand why there are decisions to be made. Living for extended periods, on a tropical island, in a foreign country, may not currently be in my best interest. Sometimes it’s better the devil you know…
So, what’s the plan now? As I stated before… Damned if I know.